On Giving and Receiving Advice, Part 1: Receiving

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 | 3 Comment(s)

Today, my 34th birthday, I have been thinking a lot about advice.  Advice I’ve given (truth be told I love being helpful even when it’s not always warranted), and also advice I’ve gotten.  More specifically, I have been thinking about what the best advice I’ve given and or received has been. 

What I keep coming back to as I mentally compile this inspirational top 10 list, is that the most important part of each experience was me.  And while we all know I am that narcissistic, in this case I mean that it was only by putting myself in a place to receive advice, a place where I can be told instead of asked, that the wisdom was actually departed. 

Put another way.  Today in honor of myself, I went and got a massage.  And, just like advice, a massage is not a one-person activity.  It is a partnership.  A mini-dance.  I could lay there, muscles tense, as my masseuse tried her best kneed my tendons apart.  But it wouldn’t work.  Most likely it would be both frustrating for her and painful for me (I’m pretty sure the metaphor is holding up fantastically.).

If I like nice flowy even pressure and my masseuse digs in for a deep tissue beat down, regardless of her skill, I’m going to leave feeling worse than I came in (metaphor of the year award here I come.).

It’s only after my masseuse and I communicate about how this massage could best be received by me (again, all about me) that the unwritten social contract can play out in a way that allows her talents to be utilized to their fullest, and my emotional and physical well-being can be relaxed into a state that crazily rides the line between orgasmic and napping in a pile of puppies.  No overlap.

Same with giving and taking advice.  Another mini-dance. Some people just need someone to listen to them.  To be there.  If some person tries to fix the problem (aka. I try to fix the problem), you (I) can only make it worse (aka. Matt, stop trying to FIX everything!).  Other people like an active listener.  Someone who responds and gives insights.  This approach is more intimate and can be more jarring for the person getting advice back directly after lamenting the problem.  Either way, you need to match the needs of the advice taker with the approach of the advice giver.  And this is the only arrangement that works.  The person giving advice can never go solo successfully, it just ends up being words in the breeze.  The deal is, the taker sets the boundaries, but then must open him or herself up and put her or himself in a place to receive.  (I think this metaphor might also be applicable to sex, but I’ll try that blog later.).

For my birthday, I wish myself more of these moments of openness.  More minutes and hours where I remember how much I still don’t know. (thankfully I have many friends who never cease to remind me of this.) How much world I have yet to conquer, and how every new stranger holds the potential for a life-changing experience.  But it takes more than one person, and you have to catch me in the mood to learn a new mini-dance.


  1. You gave me 2 great pieces of advice about relationships that I love:

    1. You can never get mad at someone for something they did before you were with them.
    2. You should feel proud of your significant other, and proud that they are with you. If you don't feel that way, you're with the wrong person.

    Good words, Dr. Z.

  2. Those ARE good one's! and true too! i should start writing these down.

  3. Happy belated birthday! I have a few more weeks before 34. I really enjoyed this post. Words to live by, for sure.